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Local anglers provide network of knowledge

One of the perks that comes with writing weekly about fishing is the network of superb anglers who are willing to share their knowledge.

I feel particularly fortunate to have met many outstanding anglers over the years. They are walking, talking encyclopedias of fishing knowledge amassed over their lifetimes on the water.

A quick canvass of my network of expert angling buddies revealed that the fishing is outstanding for a variety of species in lakes close to home.

Chris DePaola of Austintown is a big believer in the state’s muskie program. He fishes weekly for muskies and says northeastern Ohio lakes have been hot.

“We are blessed to have three of the best muskie lakes in the state nearby,” he said. “All of them have produced numbers and big fish this season. Pymatuning and West Branch were hot early and Milton was productive all summer. My fishing buddy, John Landis, caught his biggest muskie with me one morning in July.”

DePaola said the autumn bite has been improving. “Pymatuning has been one of your better options lately.”

Muskies are not the only bright spot. John Breedlove is hauling in spectacular steelhead catches from Lake Erie break waters and river mouths. Rick Henninger and Steve Zarbaugh are whacking nice crappies. Sammy Cappelli reports the reservoir walleye bite is heating up and Tom Rolland has been enjoying great topwater action with Ohio River smallmouth bass.

Henninger, who is editor of Fish & Field Report, loves Shenango for fall fishing.

“We are catching crappies late in the afternoon and after dark around the highway 846 bridge and Clark boat ramp,” he said. He reported other local hotspots include the railroad bridge at Berlin, the Pymatuning causeway and bridge after dark, and the Interstate 76 bridge across Lake Milton in 10 to 12 feet of water on small hair jigs.

“The fall bite will be good off boat docks now at Mosquito State Park marina now that anglers can gain access,” Henninger said.

Zarbaugh, of Poland, has been catching crappies while casting for bass around flooded treetops at Shenango. He said his crankbait has been good for bird-dogging the crappies.

“When I miss a fish, I figure it was a crappie that couldn’t get the entire plug, so I pick up a small jig and catch them,” he said. “Some of the treetops are loaded with crappies.”

Walleye pro Cappelli says the points and bridges at Mosquito and Pymatuning have been producing good catches. He recommends casting and vertical jigging Vibes, Jigging Rapalas and Shiver Minnows.

“At Berlin, check out the points, humps and around bridges six to 20 feet deep,” he said. “Milton is good around the bridges and sunken island.”

Rolland, of Austintown, said the Ohio River topwater bite is strong. “For 90 percent of my bites, I’ve been working a Strike King popper in Tennessee shad color between the barges and the bank. The other bites are in two to eight feet of water near the barges, but overtop the big patches of underwater grass.”

Breedlove said the cooler weather has warmed up the Lake Erie steelhead trout migration as they follow giant schools of baitfish to near-shore waters.

He has already logged many miles on Ohio 11 this fall as he tows his boat to troll the walls around Conneaut Harbor for steelhead. He reports spoons trolled around 2 mph are working well on Erie’s “silver bullets.”

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, features the stories of several Youngstown-area anglers on familiar hometown waters. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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